Previous posts on this blog have discussed how New Orleans residents can get into significant criminal trouble for lying to public officials, especially when those officials are investigating a crime. Even if a Louisianan did not actually have anything to do with the crime itself, he or she can still wind up in jail or paying fines simply for lying about it.
The most serious type of lying to public officials, generally speaking, involves lying under oath, or perjury. This is because a person who perjures made a specific promise to tell the truth but then did not keep his or her promise. Authorities take perjury especially seriously since lies can undermine people’s confidence in the justice system, as they tend to cause inaccurate and unfair results.
However, even without taking an oath, Louisianans have certain obligations to tell the truth to the police, even though people who are accused of a crime may choose not to talk to the police at all. Filing a false police report carries with it significant penalties and can lead to a felony charge and up to five years in prison. Police who investigate these sorts of offenses say that people nonetheless do file false reports, in many cases because they are trying to get back at someone, seek money or attention or cover up their own role in a separate crime.
In certain limited circumstances, Louisiana residents do have an obligation to speak to police. Specifically, an officer can ask that a person identify herself if the officer has validly placed her under arrest. The person must provide his identity and do so accurately. Not doing so is a separate misdemeanor offense in Louisiana. It bears repeating, though, that once a person has identified himself, he does not have any obligation to speak to the police about the alleged crime.